Where Rents Are Rising the Most, and Least

When rents go up, the overall housing market usually improves.

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We all want our living costs to go down, not up. But a surge in rents may represent a surprising bit of good news for the beleaguered housing industry, which has been in the dumps for half a decade.

[See one sign the housing bust could end soon.]

Like home prices, rents fell during the recession, as millions of people moved in with parents or roommates to cut their housing costs. Home prices are still falling, but renters are finally returning—and that's pushing rents back up. Research firm REIS predicts that rents will rise an average of 3.4 percent in 2011. Eventually, higher rents could turn many tenants into buyers, since buying a home will seem like a bargain compared with sending a monthly check to a landlord. So rising rents today could signal a pickup in home purchases in the near future. Here's where rents are likely to rise by the most and the least in 2011, according to REIS:

Biggest increases:

Metro area Asking rent Annual increase
San Jose, Calif. $1,646 7.5%
District of Columbia $1,528 5.9%
Seattle $1,094 5.7%
New York $3,017 5.2%
Houston $828 5.2%
Orange County, Calif. $1,590 4.9%
Fort Worth $756 4.8%
Portland $877 4.6%
Tucson $683 4.3%
Greenville, S.C. $672 4.3%

Smallest increases:

Metro area Asking rent Annual increase
Las Vegas $811 0.9%
Wichita $523 1.2%
Jacksonville $806 1.2%
Orlando $878 1.3%
Syracuse $711 1.6%
Los Angeles $1,418 1.6%
Phoenix $763 1.7%
Tulsa $593 1.8%
Westchester County, N.Y. $1,892 1.9%
Atlanta $863 2.0%

Notes: Asking rent is the amount a landlord requests and may be slightly higher than actual rent paid. Figures for the suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C., have been omitted but are similar to the D.C. figures.

Twitter: @rickjnewman